Monday, 12 October 2015

Fostering Independence

My guest blogger this time is Ms. Kelsey Meyers from Austin Texas

Four ways to make your bathroom a place kids want to be
By Ty Schmidt
There’s only so much you can learn from the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood jingles about brushing your teeth and stopping to go potty right away. Sure, the mind of a toddler is hard-wired to pick up concepts more efficiently when they are attached to a catchy tune, but that’s just the first step toward making positive behaviors stick. The second can’t be taught by a television or a tablet. It needs to be practiced and reinforced in the home.
While a good song may lay a solid foundation for parents to draw upon, putting those well-intentioned lyrics into action requires more than a good singing voice. It requires patience, planning and commitment from parents. One way to make things easier is to find methods of fostering independence doing everyday tasks by working with the space at hand to make it one that encourages understanding as well as cognitive growth and development.
A good place to start is the bathroom, where there is a lot you can do to help your tot learn to tend to and care for the simplest and simultaneously some of the most important components of personal hygiene.
Many parents know there is a fine line between indulging too much and not enough in the life of a small child. (Temper tantrums anyone?) But there are ways (big and small) to integrate kid-friendly design elements into any bathroom to make it a more comfortable space for the little ones. Here are a few of our favorites:
First things first. One of the most important developmental milestones for children and parents to overcome is potty training. Making that process as pain free as possible is easier for some families than others, which is to be expected and completely normal. But there are things, like a proper potty step stool, that can make the process a bit more bearable.
Wash your hands. Being able to reach the sink may pose another challenge for younger children, which makes having a stool (which can be the same as the one you use for getting to the toilet, but doesn’t have to be) accessible invaluable to the cleanly-minded child. Beyond that, there are accessories you can purchase for your faucet that extend the water to a kid-friendly distance, as well as creative ways to make your own at home.
Go bold. Assuming you don’t already have an unspoken connection to the subtle spa-like hues in your bathroom, make it a space your children are likely to feel connected to instead. Think bright and vibrant primary colors on the walls, as well as complimentary accents throughout. This is the place to embrace your inner child. Always wanted a Minnie Mouse-themed bathroom? Now is your chance!
                                          Via Furni Kidz

Take it down. Frustration is one of the most common spark plugs for a tantrum, and therefore is something to be avoided at all costs in the bathroom. Help make it a bit more toddler-ific by bringing necessities, like towels and washcloths, down to their level. Be careful with things like soaps and scrubs, though, at least while the kids are younger.

                                          Via Pop Sugar

Life’s little reminders. There can never be too many. Remember, the bathroom is a place you want your child to feel collected and comfortable, but that doesn’t mean letting things go. Integrating little reminders into the décor can help little minds recall the next step in their bathroom process (like washing their hands, for example).

Ty writes about all things home décor for  Modernize is where you come to get inspired, see what's possible, and connect with a professional who will make your dream home a reality.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Crying Need for Creativity

This blog is written by guest blogger Ms Vandana Modal Dewan an 'edumother', a mother who believes in change in the education system for our children.

The crying need for Creativity in Education!

-          By Vandana Mohal Dewan

As we hurtle towards the end of another year, I see myself staring at an abyss of sorts, everything so murky and unclear. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis; it’s just a mom-life crisis. You see I am a mom second time over and in a few months’ time my little one will enter the portals of primary school. A time to be thrilled, no doubt, but yet all I feel is trepidation in my heart.

It’s got nothing to do with long hours or heavy bags; it’s to do with what she goes through in those long hours with the contents of the heavy bag.

I see her so happy right now sharing with me all these tiny booklets that she gets from Podar Jumbo kids, where the school has bothered to create tiny little stories about each alphabet that they teach. It’s such a joy to read it out with my daughter Maahi, who loves it when she spots something familiar and even more when she reads them out to me….she makes up words for the pictures as she goes along….telling the story pretty much clearly, just on the basis of the visuals.

Obviously with this kind of a creative approach, my daughter today knows more than probably I did at her age. We were taught A for Apple, B for Ball and all we had to do was mug up the letters, then spelling like cat, mat, fat etc. She on the other hand knows the sound of each letter and various words that can be formed with the sound. She recollects how to write the letter. To her these letters are little adventures she goes on!

She isn’t exceptionally bright, or exceptionally slow…she is just a little 4 year old baby who sees the world with amazement soaking up all the things that are there in her experience. She is moody, lot of times she doesn't want to do Homeplay, but that doesn't make her feel that her “princess” Nidhi Teacher or “oh-so-beautiful” Rukhsar Teacher will scold her or say anything that would hurt her feelings. They will always love her, give her cards that say “we missed you” and life will continue, happy and joyful.

Well, not really, it won’t be the same a few months down in Grade1.

Suddenly in Grade1, with a choice of a board -- CBSE, ICSC or CIE – I fear to see an end to the creative approach to education that I see in Jumbo kids. We have tried the first two boards for my son, so now for our daughter, we have chosen CIE. It’s an unknown entity to me, so I am ambivalent about it.

So, is this fear unfounded? Well, I am comparing my son, Arjun’s experience, now in Grade 7, to what I am hoping will not be repeated by Maahi. School is a place Arjun goes to read various chapters, practice some Maths & Science and come back. His learning happens outside school, from the Internet, through the papers and magazines that he reads, through the stories we share at home. School for a lot of reasons is a drag for him. Again not that he is exceptionally bright or its opposite, its just the way education is imparted in schools, which makes it all so very dreary

Look at the books he reads. Horrendously written, full of typos. Pick up the Computer book for this Grade and you’ll see sentences cut & pasted from Wikipedia; glaring typos. Incorrect solutions to Maths problems; inadequate and convoluted explanations for scientific concepts. Unnecessary details thrust in history…history no more is HIS STORY it's a chronology of events. All kids love stories, but do Indian school kids love HISTORY, nope because it’s just so not engaging!

These school books that he reads are so boring that I wouldn't want to read them, if given a choice. Science is a series of learning definitions, not the amazement of how the world works.

The focus in our education system is on finishing the portions, not so much to understand how much the child has comprehended. Every child’s uniqueness is not focused on, or even creativity, it’s only about the syllabus.

Something needs to change drastically. I would say the methodology has to change; the focus has to change. Teach the same things, but teach it in an engaging, creative and fun way. They will remember more. In the words of mystic, philanthropist, author and spiritual teacher Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, who runs the Isha Foundation "the most responsible way to live is to be playful with life. It is absolutely irresponsible to walk around with a long face. Being playful is being responsible. Only when you are playful, you can be responsive to life."

I pin down the difference of approach to Maahi and Arjun’s education to this, Maahi thinks she is having fun, while actually she is being taught a concept; Arjun and others of his age think they are being taught which is equal to being serious, therefore non-fun! For children Arjun’s age its about cramming facts and vomiting them out on a sheet of paper; for Maahi its about filling up sheets of paper with an imaginary world where A & B can talk and be friends!

Now that I have talked about the actual syllabus, methodology, I now come to the third part of the trinity that plays havoc with the kids' life and, well creativity too! Yes, it’s none other than parents. Someone just needs to check out my Mommy Whatsapp group to see the kind of pressure & involvement each parent, primarily mothers, show. They actually wish each other “All the Best” before the exams, as if it’s their exams not the children. And if you probe further, they are all so frightened as to what their kids will do, what will happen to them, if they don't get good grades and don't make it through those hallowed portals of an IIT! Imagine the kind of pressure we as parents exert on children when we inadvertently let this thought skip our lips! The consequences could be irreversible!

You know it’s perfectly alright, if they [kids] don't get into engineering or medical school, they should just figure out for themselves what they are good at and where their interests lie. There is no need for the parent to add the pressure of “this profession doesn't pay well”. Maybe they may not earn as well as say a Stock Broker, but imagine if they take up a profession they love and their hobby becomes their profession. Wouldn't that be wonderful? As parents our only job is to provide them with a loving, comfortable and secure world; provide an education that gives them life skills, beyond that its what they choose to make of their lives, we just have to learn to take a back seat and life play out its course. Why the insecurity?

What is the solution really? We definitely need an overhauling of our education system, for sure. Maybe you will have some answers, since you are somebody who has conceptualised such a beautiful and creative way of educating little ones. I am hoping you can do something for the older kids too! 
I would like to end this piece with this link of Sir Ken Robinson, an author and education advisor who makes a strong case for creating and environment in our education system, which encourages creativity.
I feel, the crying need of our time are more such voices who promote this engaging, even sort of inorganic method of learning, which really is a life long journey, versus the current system of pedagogy which seems to be set in stone!